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FRANCE'S LOIRE VALLEY

You'll find an interesting range of wines here in the Loire Valley and you'll need to know what grapes grows in which appellation.  The wines, like those of Alsace in France, tend to be varietal wines.  Unlike Alsace, however, Loire Valley wines take their geographical names or appellations.  So, while in Alsace a wine is labeled Riesling, for example, here the wines made of Sauvignon Blanc, with only a rare exception or two, rarely are noted on the label as being made of Sauvignon Blanc. 

In an effort to clarify the issue for you, here's a "cheat sheet":

SAUVIGNON BLANC Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, Quincy, Menetou-Salon, Reuilly, Coteaux du Giennois, Touraine (usually these have the name "Sauvignon" on the label)
CHENIN BLANC (also known as Pineau de la Loire) Vouvray, Jasnières, Montlouis, Quarts de Chaume, Bonnezeaux, Coteaux du Layon, Savennières. Anjou, Coteaux de Saumur
PINOT NOIR Sancerre, Menetou-Salon Rouge
CABERNET FRANC (also known locally as "Breton") Bourgueil, Chinon, Champigny, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Anjou
MUSCADET (not Muscat!) (Also known as "Melon de Bourgogne") Muscadet, Muscadet des Coteaux de la Loire, Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine Muscadet Cotes de Grand Lieu
OTHER MINOR VARIETIES Reds: Grolleau (often used for rose wines), Gamay Noir, Pinot Meunier, Cot (same as Malbec),  Pineau d'Aunis (also known as Chenin Noir)

Whites: Gros Plant, Folle Blanche, Tressallier,  Chardonnay (vintners seem to have increasing interest with this), Pinot Gris (called Malvoisie), Fie (said to be a Sauvignon mutation), Romorantin.

A Bit of Loire's LAY OF THE LAND:

 

Some of our Loire Valley Selections:

 
DOMAINE DAULNY
Etienne Daulny owns a small domaine in a sub-region of Sancerre called "Chaudenay."  You'll be near the village of Verdigny if you're looking for it on a map.

Daulny is an old-timer who's been growing grapes and making good Sancerre for several decades.  The estate comprises about 15 hectares and he makes a basic Sancerre, an "old vines" bottling from his prized "Clos de Chaudenay" vineyard and a nice little Sancerre Rouge.

 

Our friend who imports the Daulny wines allowed me to accompany him on an excursion a number of years ago.  We had not purchased any of the first vintages he imported from this domaine.  We tasted through the cellar one cold winter afternoon and I found the basic Sancerre to be "correct," but still lacking excitement.

We'd tasted a sample of the Clos de Chaudenay and I suggested that, perhaps, a bit of this tank blended into the basic bottling might make for a more interesting wine.  I was pleasantly surprised when Daulny put together a few blends incorporating various percentages of the Clos de Chaudenay wine.  Voilà, as they say.  We ended up choosing one of them and this batch was then shipped to the Bay Area.

 



I've returned to visit on several other trips with the importer and now we routinely work to find the blend which works best.  And, I'm delighted to report, the recent vintages we have had in the shop have been very popular with our customers.  
But I've created a monster:  our importer friend now works with a number of producers in his portfolio and likes to assemble his own, personal blend...
I did hear one winemaker take exception to the notion of making a special blend and fear one day someone will toss him out of their winery.




The 2017 has just hit the west coast.  It's a deliciously dry, crisp, lip-smacking, tart, dry Sauvignon Blanc.  We like the citrusy notes and the minerality of this wine.  It's fresh and bone dry.  No oak.   

Daulny also makes a bit of Rosé and Sancerre Rouge.  We don't buy either, presently, but I will say the red wine has been pretty good.  On a recent visit, I teased Etienne about his "Domaine de la Romanee-Daulny."  He appreciated the good natured ribbing.

I brought a bottle of an old bottle of Chaudenay to an Italian vintner who makes good Sauvignon...he was very impressed and kept muttering Italian expressions/expletives as he drank the wine, preferring it that night, to his own.

Currently in stock:  DAULNY 2017 SANCERRE BLANC $19.99 
 


Etienne in March of 2011



 

 






SYLVAIN BAILLY (Domaine Croix Saint Ursin)
 
This domaine is run by Jacques Bailly and his wife Marie-Helene.  They're located in the town of Bu, though vineyard holdings are scattered around the appellation.

Bailly has about 11 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc in Sancerre, some 3.5 hectares of Pinot Noir and about 5 hectares of Sauvignon in Quincy.  

The Sancerre comes from differing soils.  Jacques explained that about 70% of their vineyards are in limestone, the balance in a soil that's a combination of clay and limestone.  

Bailly's is our most popular Sancerre, his wine having a nice combination of minerality and citrus.  Oak is not part of the program here.  Various sites are picked at differing levels of sugar, so Bailly's fermentation tanks of Sancerre vary in character until he blends them.  A "prestige" bottling is produced in riper vintages and a part of that wine is wood aged.  Even so, it's hard to beat the "Les Terroirs" bottling.

 
Red Sancerre is made, of course, of Pinot Noir.  A French woman picked up a bottle of Bailly's red wine, not knowing this and commented, "There must be something wrong with your Sancerre...it's awfully dark in color."
"It's a red wine." we told her.
"Oh!"

    


   


       
Currently available:  2017 Sancerre "Terroirs" (list $24) SALE  $19.99 (750ml)






DOMAINE DES BAUMARD
A family-run producer specializing in Chenin Blanc wines from Savennières and Quarts-de-Chaume.  They work to retain the fresh fruit aromas of Chenin Blanc, picking the grapes into small bins and vinifying at low temps in stainless steel.   Their Quarts-de-Chaume can mature over several decades (think of what California Chenin Blanc is still good after two or three years)!   We've found their Anjou Rouge, made of Cabernet Franc, to be a very charming and price-worthy wine.
Their Coteaux du Layon "Carte d'Or" is a magnificent sweet Chenin Blanc, while their special, single-vineyard wine of "Clos de Sainte Catherine" is even more honeyed and rich.  This is from the 1998 vintage.

Currently available:  
2008 Quarts de Chaume (375ml)  $44.99
2005 Clos des Papillon Sold Out
1998 Coteaux du Layon "Clos de Sainte Catherine" Sold Out




 


DOMAINE PATRICK COULBOIS
Gerald Coulbois had been a grower in the Pouilly-Fumé village of Saint Andelain and now his son Patrick runs this small domaine.  Patrick's wife also comes from a wine growing family, so together they have about 8.7 hectares of vines, all bit a half a hectare being Sauvignon.  The other variety Coulbois cultivates is Chasselas which "dad" used to make into sparkling wine.

The domaine started back in 1974 and today Coulbois produces about 30,000 bottles from vines cultivated in three soil types: Silex (flint), chalk and Clay.  

The flinty soil gives a real minerally character to the wine and that's why we like this fellow's Pouilly-Fumé. The wine is labeled "Les Cocques" as it comes from Silex soil.   It's got a wonderful fragrance of stones and grapefruit, with a touch of a floral note.  Bone dry and crisp, this is a great match with seafood!  I almost sense a 'salty' quality to the wine, too.
 
 

Currently in stock:  2015 Pouilly-Fumé "Les Cocques"  $19.99



 


Patrick Coulbois opening a bottle
of his Pouilly-Fumé.

 

 

 






CAVE DE SAUMUR

The Saumur appellation is a bit obscure for most wine drinkers.  Hard core Loire Valley fans know it, but the average bear is in the dark on these wines.

More prominent are the Chenin Blanc wines of Vouvray and the Cabernet Franc wines of Chinon.

This can be good news for those of us who appreciate wines which fall into the category of "affordable."

There's a very good grower's co-operative whose wines arrive here at sensible price levels.

We've had their wines from time to time and, with the 2017 vintage, now's the time!

They make a wine from a single vineyard site south of Saumur (and the winery is also south of the town of Saumur and south of the river) near Meron.  "Les Pouches" is the name of the vineyard.

If you have a ten dollar bill in your pocket and a taste for Chenin Blanc grown in chalky soils, this is a terrific wine.  The flint and limestone contribute to the character of this non-oaked white wine which is vinified to total dryness.  There's a hint of peach and citrus to this wine...but just hints.  You might even sense a chalky element in this wine...we do.  It's a lovely little cocktail white as it sets up the palate for a bigger or more complex wine with the main course.  This is not terribly fancy...it's just a good, dry, crisp white wine.

 

 

This is said to pair well with goat cheeses and Asian cuisine.   The producers claim it pairs handsomely with seafood in a cream sauce, but we find it a bit austere for that arena.   
We went for a second bottle..."Some more Saumur?"   



Currently in stock:  2017 Saumur "Les Pouches"  $10.99



 

 

OISLY & THÉSÉE

This producer is a grower's cooperative...and an interesting one at that!

They've been around since the 1960s and have long sold wine in bottle, a relative novelty in those days when much wine was sold in bulk.

We understand they had 55 growers as members in the 1990s, but today it's a much smaller enterprise as a lot of the younger generation of owner families have decided they want to make and bottle their own wines.  Probably some of this was brought about by the co-op preferring to ferment each grower's fruit separately to see what they had...then they'd make their master blend in order to sell the wines.  Today, though, they do  make a number of single site bottlings.


Of course, most growers are going to find their wine superior to the bottling which hit the market...


The winery was possibly the first to install stainless steel tanks to ferment using temperature controls.  We understand they do some leaf plucking and green harvesting to make wines of greater intensity.  

Anyway, we've tasted the little Sauvignon Blanc from this winery for many years and they always turn out a clean, sound wine.  

We were a bit surprised to find the 2017 tasting somewhat brighter and slightly more intense than we'd found in the past.  The wine remains attractively priced and a nicely tangy, bone dry, crisp Loire Valley, entry level Sauvignon Blanc.
The local importer designed a label for their shipments, so as you can see, it simply is noted as O & T instead of Oisly and Thésée which nobody here can pronounce..

The grapes are brought to the cellar, about a half hour from the famous Château of Chambord.
The skins are cold-macerated with the juice for some hours in an effort to extract a bit more character.

It's not a profound, complex wine.  The idea is to make something of quality at an economical price and that they've done.



If you're preparing some sort of seafood and you like a squeeze of lemon, you'll probably find this wine to be worth a try.  And at its modest price, even if it's not your cup of Sauvignon Blanc, you've been bruised for a mere eight bucks.
 

Currently in stock:  2017  OISLY & THÉSÉE SAUVIGNON BLANC  SALE $7.99

 

 

ERIC CHEVALIER    Domaine de L'Aujardiere

The wines of the western part of France's Loire Valley might be more popular if consumers didn't confuse Muscadet with Muscat.  But the average bear in America sees the name Muscadet on a wine label and immediately associates the wine with bottlings that are often hugely perfumed and sweet.

Eric Chevalier grew up on a little wine producing farm and worked for a negociant firm in Touraine for about a decade before heading back home and taking the reins of the family domaine.  He had been working at the Laroche winery in Chablis where he was exposed to the Chardonnay grape.  Similarly, he learned about red wine in the Anjou appellation of the Loire.

His father was ready to retire and Eric wasn't looking to run the winery, so the vineyards were in danger of being ripped out or sold, perhaps.  But the planets and stars came to some particular alignment and Chevalier decided to move back home and handle the vineyards, along with making some wines.

The wine we're crazy about from Monsieur Chevalier is not his lovely Muscadet, but the wine made from a curious variety known in the Loire as "Fie Gris."  This is a relative of Sauvignon Blanc, though the skin of the grape actually ripens to a lightly colored hue, appearing to the uninitiated as though it might be a red grape.  It's said to have been fairly widely planted in the 1800s, but when the vineyards were destroyed by the Phylloxera root louse, growers replanted with Sauvignon Blanc as it was said to yield a larger crop.   So much for Sauvignon Gris or "Fie Gris" if you're in the western Loire.

We see Sauvignon Gris in Bordeaux and France's Southwest and there's a bit in Chile, too.  

Chevalier makes a really nice dry white from Fie Gris...dry, as you might expect.  There's an interesting spice tone here with hints of a vegetal or herbal note.  This is marvelous as a cocktail white and it pairs quite nicely with seafood (shrimp marinated in olive oil, thyme, garlic and a bit of chili pepper and then broiled for a few minutes...)...
 

Currently in stock:  2010 ERIC CHEVALIER "FIE GRIS"  $21.99

DOMAINE DU CLOSEL (Chateau des Vaults)

This property was originally called the Chateau des Vaults, but it's been known as the Domaine du Closel for maybe half a century.

The property was owned by the Marquis de Las Cases around the time of the Phylloxera scourge and Bernard de Closel married into the family.

It's situated at the south-eastern part of the town of Savennières.  Monsieur de Closel was, in fact, even the mayor of the village...imagine in these days of term limits, this guy was elected to the post in 1919 and remained the Mayor until 1956.  It was under his leadership that Savennières got its appellation (1952).  De Closel's niece took over the property in 1962 and now the domaine has passed on to her daughter, Evelyne de Jessey-Pontbriand.   It was Evelyne's mom, Michele, who renamed the estate as Domaine du Closel, wanting to honor her Uncle Bernie.

Today there are nearly 17 hectares of vineyards.  They've been farming organically for a number of years and are certified by Ecocert.  In addition to Chenin Blanc, they make some Anjou wines of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.  And today Evelyne heads the Savennières' grower's group, so she's got a leadership role in the region.

We've been fans of this estate for many years.

Currently we have the "La Jalousie" bottling in stock, a dry rendition of Chenin Blanc.  It's a straightforward wine, with a simple fermentation in tank.  The wine remains on its spent yeast for about a year and then racked and bottled.  The wine shows a note of peach intermingled with a touch of jasmine.  This is one of those wines you taste on its own and you'll find it to be perfectly okay, but not hugely compelling.
Then, pair it with some food (the Madame suggests eel, but that's a bit unusual for San Francisco) such a our local Dungeness Crab, pan-roasted halibut, a stir-fry of prawns and asparagus, etc. and you'll find the wine suddenly has more depth and interest.  

We were amused to read this on a blog of a San Francisco wine geek (who had ventured out of The City to come buy a bottle of Closel from us:


If she didn't mean any disrespect to Burlingame, why make such a snarky comment, I wonder?
In any case, it illustrates that there is a small measure of "civilization" here in the 'burbs.

 

Currently in stock:  2014 DOMAINE DU CLOSEL SAVENNIÈRES "La Jalousie"  $27.99

DOMAINE HUET

This is a leading light in Vouvray and many connoisseurs view the Huet domaine as the reference point for the appellation.  

Victor Huet started this estate in 1928, buying Le Haut Lieu property from the Masse family.  Huet and his wife Anna Constance had a son, Gaston, who studied agronomy before being drafted into the military as World War II started.  The property was devastated during the war and Gaston Huet had been in a Prisoner of War Camp from 1940 until the war ended.  

He's often cited in an interesting book called WINE & WAR by Don & Petie Kladstrup.  It's a fascinating book featuring interviews with many wine industry figures whose lives were impacted by the Nazi invasion.

When Huet returned home, he found the vineyards in a sad state, not having been pruned or plowed (the Nazis took all the horses for one thing).  He set about righting the ship and in 1947, one of the greatest vintages on record for Vouvray, Huet was elected as Mayor of the town, a post he held until 1989 (coincidentally, another Hall of Fame vintage for Vouvray!).

Over the years, Le Haut Lieu grew to a 9 hectare site.   Le Clos du Bourg became a stable-mate in 1953 and this is now a 6 hectare parcel.  Also part of the domaine is Le Mont and this is an 8 hectare vineyard.  

Huet had two daughters and a son.  The son, Jean, didn't get along well with his old man and took off for greener pastures.  We understand he became a photographer.  

The youngest daughter, Marie-Francoise, married the son of a local butcher.  This fellow, Noel Pinguet, was not a wine drinker and he was involved with an insurance company in Paris.  In 1971 the newlyweds moved back to Vouvray and Pinguet got his first taste of winemaking, learning from old man Huet.  He never had any formal training, but when you're learning from a fellow who has a Black Belt in Vouvray, perhaps you don't need to sit in a classroom listening to enology professors droning on about winemaking theories.

Pinguet, then, assumed control of the winemaking chores in 1976 and he continued the fine tradition of the Great Gaston.  Huet passed away in 2002 and the Pinguets had two daughters who did not express much interest in the family business.  So the property was sold to a Filipino-born fellow, Anthony Hwang.  Pinguet remains working at the domaine on a part-time basis and is under contract to remain in this position until 2015.

They have a sensible program to keep a large portion of the vines at least 30 years old, with about 35% of the property being, at least, mature and in the range of 10 to 30 years of age.  Fifteen percent of the estate is in recently-planted vineyards.  

The vineyards are all hand-harvested, a bit of a rarity in Vouvray as most vines are not mechanically harvested.  They've embraced biodynamic vineyard cultivation, though were spooked in the Spring of 2008 and sprayed something not approved to save the crop.  They've since returned to their normal, sensible, biodynamic practices.

We had Le Haut Lieu Sec in the shop from the 2010 harvest.  This is a marvelous dry white with some beautiful fruit and stony notes.  It's still young, but it has such character!  It can probably easily be cellared another 5 to 10 years and it will continue to grow.

Also in the shop if the 2008 Le Mont Demi-Sec.  Here's another youthful wine with a firm backbone and delightful balance.  It's mildly sweet, but not full-throttle sugary.  

Currently available:  2010 LE HAUT LIEU SEC Sold Out
2008 LE MONT DEMI-SEC $39.99  (last bottles)

 

 

CHAMPALOU

Didier and Catherine Champalou embarked on their wine-making adventure in 1983 when they planted their first Chenin Blanc vines in the Vouvray appellation...all of one half of a hectare!  Today they farm 21 hectares of vineyards splashed across the appellation.

The winery has grown and so have their kids, as the two Champalou daughters are now working in the wine biz, one in Vouvray with Mom and Dad, the other in Great Britain.

They produce a full range of wines in terms of styles and they explain the versatility of the Chenin Blanc, saying you can make good bubbly, dry wine, mildly sweet wine and all the way to late-harvest, full-throttle sweet wines.



We're fans of their basic Vouvray...while many wines of this appellation have a decidedly mushroomy character, the Champalou wine is bright, nicely appley and fruity in terms of aromas and flavors, with tangy acidity giving the wine a fairly dry finish.

We like this wine for its zesty character and 'clean' fragrances and flavors...Very bright and youthful.

Currently in stock:  2017 CHAMPALOU Vouvray $19.99

 

 

 

DOMAINE PIERRE-LUC BOUCHAUD  (PONT CAFFINO)

This is a smallish family domaine that produces a lovely Muscadet.

Pierre-Luc went off to school and earned what the French call a BTS, Brevet de Technicien Supérieur.  It's some sort of high school degree.

When he returned home in the Western Loire, he assumed the reins of the estate from his father and over the years he's expanded the vineyard holdings from 11 hectares to the present 19.

He routinely wins notable citations for the wines he enters in the Paris Concours General Agricole.  

We like the simple Muscadet labeled as Pont Caffino.  It comes from granite soils in a vineyard that is close to the confluence of the Sevre and Maine rivers.

The fragrances and flavors are typically crisp and a bit reminiscent of Granny Smith apples...light, dry and perfect when paired with seafood.
Oysters?
Sure!
Fish and Chips?
Why not!!??




Currently in stock:  2016 PONT CAFFINO MUSCADET SÈVRE et MAINE  $12.99

 

 

 

 


DOMAINE DES QUATRE ROUTES  (ERIC POIRON)

The current owner of the Poiron family is the 8th generation, so they've had a few years to refine their viticulture and winemaking.

The domaine is located about 18.5 kilometers southeast of the city of Nantes and you'll need about a half hour in the car to make the drive.

Muscadet is their claim to fame, though they produce a bit of Gros Plant and some simpler table wines.

They have several different parcels, with the total production coming from about 39 hectares.  The Domaine Des Quatre Routes is a 13 hectare property and we are told they have some certification as farming organically.
The Terra Vitis organization requires they use no chemical herbicides or pesticides.

Of course, the wine is made entirely of the Melon de Bourgogne grape.  Clay and schist soils in the vineyard. Forty-five year old vines, give or take a year or two. The wine is vinified, we're told, in stainless steel or glass-lined tanks.  It remains on the spent yeast for about 6 months and then goes into bottle.

It's a very simple "recipe" and Poiron does a good job of capturing the bright, snappy fruit.  It's bone dry and mildly acidic on the palate. 

Serve this as a simple cocktail white as it sets up a nice red wine so as the red shows like a million bucks.  

Or pair it with Sea Scallops, Oysters, Smoked Trout or even crispy Fried Chicken.

Poiron says the wine ages nicely for about 5 years, but we routinely open bottles after they've just arrived in the shop, so we've never tasted an older bottle.

Currently in stock:  2016 DOMAINE DES QUATRE ROUTES MUSCADET SÈVRE ET MAINE  $13.99

 

 

 

STÉPHANE ORIEUX  (Domaine de la Bregeonnette)

The Domaine de la Bregeonnette is a small property run by Stéphane Orieux, whose father was an early practitioner of organic farming in climatic conditions that are not (or were not) the easiest to deal with.

The vineyard is in the town of Vallet, about 22 kilometers southeast of the big city of Nantes, the hub of the wine world in that part of France.

Orieux's dad, Joseph, took on growing grapes organically in the late 1960s, much to the amusement of the neighbors.  By 1991 the vineyards were granted certification that they were being famed according to approved organic methods by the Ecocert organization.
Apparently, if we understand the story, Joseph Orieux noticed a neighbor bringing some farming equipment to rinse off in the river...and a day later, the fish in that area were dead from whatever chemicals the fellow was using in his farm.  That cause Orieux to embrace a cleaner method of viticulture.  He and Guy Bossard are said to be organic viticulture pioneers in the region.


The various vineyard holdings tally to something like 17 hectares.  All farmed organically or biodynamically.

This bottling called La Bregeonnette comes from vineyards ranging from 20 years of age to about 40.  
The yields are rather modest and lower, in fact, than many wines from other regions which cost significantly more.  That's the sad part for Muscadet producers and the good news for consumers:  You can buy very good Muscadet for a song (and maybe a twenty-dollar bill).
The grapes are gently pressed and the juice is fermented using indigenous yeasts.   The wine is left on the spent yeasst until bottling, typically in April.

Orieux says his wine pairs well with goat cheese and, of course, seafood.

No oak.  Not high in alcohol.  It's a really fine and elegant rendition and the quality is such that you might not guess this comes from a naturalista winery and winemaker.


Currently in stock: STEPHANE ORIEUX "LA BREGEONNETTE" 2015  MUSCADET $14.99
 
 

 

HENRY MARIONNET  (Domaine de la Charmoise)

The Marionnet family has been growing grapes and making wine in a little Loire Valley outpost called Soings-en-Sologne, about 160-something kilometers south of Paris.  The Loire Valley chateaux nearby are quite famous.  Marionnet is about 23 kilometers from Chambord and 36 kilometers east of Chenonceaux.  

Henry Marionnet, who's now in his mid 70's, was the "bad boy of the Loire" well before Didier Dagueneau earned such a moniker.  He took over the family estate in 1967, or so.  He changed so many things with respect to the vineyards and cellar.  Marionnet was interested to cultivate vines on their own roots rather than using American rootstock which would certainly be immune to the notorious louse called phylloxera.  
He planted one hectare of ungrafted vines in 1992 and we're told this has, so far, not been affected by phylloxera.  They now cultivate more than five hectares planted without American, phylloxera-resistant rootstock.

A neighbor, some years ago, was impressed with Marionnet's viticultural practices.  The fellow was retiring and offered his old vineyard to Marionnet.  They accepted this vineyard and had the vines analyzed.  The experts said the vineyard, which they knew to have been planted before phylloxera (1880s?), may likely have been planted in the 1820s!  They like to say these are from the time of Napoleon (he died in 1821, by the way).


He's been dabbling with making wines without adding sulfites (and battling American government over the mandatory sulfite warning for his wine made with no added sulfites).

The estate comprises about 60 hectares of vineyards, mostly planted with Gamay (including the rarity called Gamay de Bouze) and Sauvignon Blanc.  They do make a bit of Romorantin, Chenin Blanc and Côt (Malbec).

We recall tasting Marionnet wines a few decades ago and they stood out for being clean, nicely aromatic and fresh...you can say they were making modern wines when others produced rustic bottlings.

The estate is run by Jean-Sébastien Marionnet and he follows in his father's footsteps of cultivating grapes in an environmentally-friendly fashion.    We're told they don't use chemicals in the vineyard.  And they make a particularly interesting and good quality Gamay that has no added sulfites.


The wine has, as usual, no added sulfites and, apparently, though these are created as a natural by-product of the fermentation, there's less than the legal limit, so the wine can be labeled thusly:

We have the 2017 vintage.  
Please note that we are typically "allergic" to sulfite-free wines.  Not because we love sulfites, but because we look for good quality.  
Sulfites, which have been used for ages to keep wine from spoiling (oxidizing and turning to vinegar), are added in low levels (these days) to keep wines in drinkable condition.

We tasted some wines recently and queried the winemaker if he added sulfites only at bottling.  He was surprised by the question and wondered how we knew how he made his wines.  Well, the wines were prematurely old, tired and on the edge of turning seriously bad.  

So finding a sulfite-free wine that we can actually tell customers is worth drinking is a bit of a novelty.  We didn't buy this because it's sulfite-free.  We judged this as being a rather nice example of Gamay and it certainly is worthy of comparing to good Beaujolais wines.  In fact, we recently evaluated a bunch of "natural" Beaujolais wines and found all sorts of funky, dirty, swampy notes in the wines.  Some retail for more than $40 for the "pleasure."

So...the Marionnet family is on the right track and the 2017 "Première Vendange" Gamay gets a thumbs up.

Best served lightly chilled.  We are not sure what the "shelf life" of this wine will be, so drinking it in its youth is likely best.

Currently in stock:  HENRY MARIONNET 2017 "PREMIÈRE VENDANGE" Gamay  $20.99

 

 

 
 
 

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